Knowledge is Power

The ability of an executive to sort out who, what, why, when, where, and how while contemplating how decisions are made will largely determine the qualitative outcome of said eventual decisions. Even though people often treat theory as knowledge, and opinion as fact, they are not one in the same. In this week’s column I’ll address what I refer to as the hierarchy of knowledge which will provide you with some logic surrounding how to filter the various sources of inputOne of great challenges for any business is to learn to efficiently and cost effectively leverage knowledge on an enterprise wide basis. We have all heard the saying that “knowledge is power.” We’ve all also heard the refinement of that saying which states that “the application of knowledge is power.” I prefer to take it one step further and say that “the successful application of knowledge at the right time, for the right reasons, and with the proper emphasis results in a certainty of execution that creates power.”Understanding that a hierarchy of knowledge exists is critically important when attempting to make prudent decisions. Put simply, not all inputs should weigh equally in one’s decisioning process. By developing a qualitative and quantitative filtering mechanism for your decisioning process you can make better decisions in a shorter period of time. The hierarchy of knowledge is as follows:* Data: Raw data is comprised of disparate facts, statistics, or random pieces of information that in-and-of-themselves hold little value. Making conclusions based on data in its raw form will lead to flawed decisions based on incomplete data sets. *Information: Information is simply an evolved, or more complete data set. Information is therefore derived from a collection of processed data where context and meaning have been added to disparate facts which allow for a more thorough analysis.*Knowledge: Knowledge is information that has been refined by analysis such that it has been assimilated, tested and/or validated. Most importantly knowledge is actionable as a result that proof of concept exists. Making executive decisions in today’s world has never been more complex, and when under extreme pressure I have seen many a savvy executive blur the lines between fact and fiction resulting in an ill advised decision. Decisions made at the data level can be made quickly, but offer a higher level of risk. Decisioning at the information level affords a higher degree of risk management, but is still not as safe as those decisions based upon actionable knowledge.Another aspect that needs to be factored into the decisioning process is the source of the input. I believe it was Cyrus the Great who said “diversity in counsel, unity in command,” meaning that good leaders seek the counsel of others, but maintain command control over the final decision. While most successful leaders subscribe to this theory, the real question in not whether you should seek counsel, but in fact where, and how much counsel you should seek. You see more input, or the wrong input, doesn’t necessarily add value to a decisioning process. Volume for the sake of volume will only tend to confuse matters, and seeking input from sources that can’t offer significant contributions is likely a waste of time. Two other issues that should be considered in your decisioning process as they relate to the source of input are as follows:1. Credibility: What is the track record of your source? Is the source reliable and credible? Are they delivering data, information or knowledge? Will the source tell you what you want to hear, what they want you to hear, or will they provide the unedited version of cold hard truth? 2. Bias: Are there any hidden and/or competing agendas that are coloring the input being received? Is the input being provided for the benefit of the source or the benefit of the enterprise? Good luck and good decisioning.